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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Savvy Souvenirs

Spring vacation brings thoughts of getting away for a few days.  One thing leading to another, the souvenir issue then presents itself:  where to find the coolest souvenirs at the best prices?

A friend just returned from a couple of days in San Juan.  He hoped to buy a little something for his teen daughter who had requested a sweatshirt.

“There were a number of places with t-shirts, but I had to really search to find the sweatshirt,” he reported, while she giggled nearby.

“Trying to make life difficult for your father?”  I chided her.

See, I don’t take requests, and definitely not for sweatshirts.  If I spot an item that I believe a friend or loved one will enjoy, I get it.  I don’t spend half of my vacation searching for this or that keepsake, and filling shopping lists.  Occasionally, there is something that I will search out for those who need/ want/ desire them:  sulfur soap or mineral mud masks from the Dead Sea, matryoshka nesting dolls from Moscow, Chinese silks or teacups from Hong Kong.  These are easy and quick gifts to locate.

But really, my goal is to enjoy being wherever I am, and, to that end, I do any shopping early, before the trip, either with online sales, or in discount stores such as Ross or TJ Maxx.  I can’t be bothered once I’m on vacay, and I certainly don’t enjoy shlepping things back to civilization.  I guess I’m in the minority of women who don’t live to shop, I just don’t have the time nor the interest, unless the goods are stunning.  So I try to get any semi-expected souvenirs out of the way… before the trip ever even happens, lol, which leaves my free time free for “real finds”, rather than obligations of trinkets.  Let me give you some examples.

You could go to the Venetian islands of Murano or Burano for hand-blown glassware. Buying a beautiful paperweight might set you back $25-$50 or so, and ensure you’ll be paying overweight fees on your luggage when you fly home.  Instead, I can purchase a simple lookalike at a local discount store for under $5.  Granted, if you want the fanciest workmanship such as the millefiori design, you can get it abroad, but otherwise, most people don’t appreciate the difference.

Could be that a friend’s wedding or anniversary is coming up this summer and you want to surprise them with a gorgeous silver picture frame from Firenze.  These are one-of-a-kind in terms of silversmithing craftsmanship and will cost hundreds of dollars (in Euros, or plastic, not to mention the exchange rate tagged on).  But if you purchase a lovely marbled papier a` la cuve gift box from Il Papiro, you might do just as well with a simulated silver frame in the clearance section of one of these nearby retailers.  The presentation provides most of the pizzazz and still makes it very special…for about a tenth of the price.

In US resort destinations if you prefer trinkets, there are often souvenir caps, keychains, knicknacks, mugs, and totebags at the local drug store or WalMart for almost pennies on the dollar.  By stepping foot on rarified resort soil, the price automatically triples or quadruples.  I’ve been surprised at the quality and appearance of high-end, boutique-style treasures, too… which may be found at the corner pharmacy close to any major resort.

Next time you take a trip, think out of the box. Look around and you may be pleased to discover similar souvenirs either before you travel, or off-the-beaten track once you’re there.



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